Big Data and Customer Segmentation

Mass marketing efforts should be a thing of the past. In today’s fast-paced and data-driven society, where the majority of consumers are price-sensitive and constantly changing their perception of brands, it’s important that companies target an audience that is in need of their products or services. Too many marketing dollars are spent on mass advertising and not enough on direct marketing. There is plenty of big data and technology available today that can help companies not only profile their customers and segment them into like-minded groups, but also target them directly via email, direct mail, social media or online advertising.

“Market segmentation is a natural result of the vast differences among people.” – Donald Norman

Why should a company segment its customers into specified groupings? It’s the best way to identify the most and least profitable customers, and focus marketing efforts on loyal customers who will most likely be interested and therefore purchase your products or services; and for obvious reasons, avoid those customer segments that will not be profitable.

Due to the amount of data readily available via newsletter subscriptions, social media profiles, CRM databases and online browsing, most companies should have valid information on each of their customers. By grouping customers by geographic location, demographics, or their attitudes and behaviours, you will have a better sense of what those particular segments are interested in, and be able to send them promotional offers that relate to their lifestyle. For example, if a big-box retailer mailed out coupons for children’s clothing to their entire database of customers, then they are most likely reaching the mailboxes of people who don’t even have kids – thereby wasting marketing dollars and creating unhappy customers who now may plan to shop elsewhere.

Here are four different ways to segment your customer database:

  1. Buying Behaviour: How much do your customers purchase? Some customers are profitable, some are not – it’s as simple as that. Segment customers into a tier system, in which the highest spending customers are referred to as platinum or gold, whereas the lower spending segments can be referred to as bronze.
  2. Geographics: Where do your customers live? Segment customers based on their location – whether that is province, city, or postal code. For instance, customers from out west likely have different interests than those based in Ontario. Similarly, customers from upscale neighbourhoods will have different interests and product needs than those in low income communities.
  3. Demographics: Who are your customers? Let’s face it – ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’. Segmenting customers based on gender is a no-brainer, but it’s also important to segment based on age. For example, baby boomers and millennials are not the same type of customer.
  4. Interests: What are your customer’s interests? Everyone is different; however, many people have similar interests. Segment customers based on their unique lifestyle, including their hobbies, beliefs, values or behavioural traits. For instance, if you offer yoga classes, target a customer segment that has a healthy and active lifestyle.

For the past year, I’ve been using a segmentation system from Environics Analytics called PRIZM. This pioneering system classifies Canada’s neighbourhoods into 66 unique lifestyle types based on postal codes. The characteristics of each cluster are determined through an extensive amount of data from the Canadian Census, Environics Research and important marketing surveys, and through the integration of geo-demographics and psychographics. This system ‘helps marketers create the most complete picture possible of their customer segments’.

To give you an idea of how you can segment your customers, here are three examples of segments (clusters) from Environics’ PRIZM system with completely different buying behaviours, geographic locations, demographics, and interests:

Customer SegmentationCustomer Segmentation

Now if your company had these three customer segments (which is highly unlikely, but I’ll use them for comparative purposes), which segment(s) would you target if you were selling tools or how about tickets to the ballet? Which segments would enjoy receiving promotional offers via the web versus traditional mediums such as newspaper or radio?

By simply knowing your customers’ postal codes, Environics is able to provide you with this type of data. Obviously, it is not 100% accurate, as some people may behave differently than their neighbour with the same postal code; however, it is most likely that these attributes match the majority of customers within that trade area. See for yourself and enter your postal code into the PRIZM Cluster Lookup.

Internal & External Analysis

Before entering a new market or deciding to produce a new product, it’s imperative that every business performs a comprehensive internal and external analysis (a.k.a. ‘competitor analysis’). Most business schools use theoretical frameworks of well-known strategists or Harvard professors from the likes of Michael Porter, David Aaker, Francis Aguilar, and so on. However, these tools are useless unless you know what each purpose is and how to use them effectively in order to provide a clear picture of where your company currently stands in the marketplace.

Three of the most used and highly developed marketing analytical tools are the SWOT Analysis, Porter’s Five Forces and the PESTLE Analysis. Before making any quick business decisions, it’s important that you identify your company’s strengths and weaknesses, research the industry you’re in and use these tools as guidelines to help you position your business amongst competitors and ultimately strengthen your brand.

The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do. – Michael Porter

SWOT Analysis

Purpose: to create a list of the company’s internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as its external threats and opportunities to inform strategic planning decisions.

SWOT analysis should help businesses improve on its strengths, eliminate weaknesses, pursue opportunities, and avoid or prepare for threats.

Strengths: Capabilities that enable your company to perform well and must be leveraged properly.
Examples: strong brand identity, customer loyalty, unique products/service, high quality, low cost.

Weaknesses: Characteristics that prevent your company from performing well and must be addressed.
Examples: limited online presence, lack of variety, too niche of market, no brand awareness.

Opportunities: Trends, events, and ideas that your company can capitalize on to succeed.
Examples: expand into niche market, launch online store, expand product line, target new audience.

Threats: Possible trends or events beyond your control that your company must either plan for or decide how to deal with.
Examples: threat of new entrants/competitors, threat of substitute/alternative products/services, new trends or customer habits.

Five Forces
What’s your strategy?

Porter’s Five Forces

Purpose: determine the attractiveness of an industry and provide a starting point for formulating strategy and understanding the competitive landscape in which a company operates.

This model, named after acclaimed business strategist Michael E. Porter, identifies and analyzes 5 competitive forces that shape every industry – while helping to determine an industry’s strengths and weaknesses. When analyzing these 5 forces, determine whether your company has Low, Medium or High risk based on the examples provided.

  • Industry Rivalry/Competition: The degree of competition amongst existing firms in the marketplace. Tough competition within an industry and/or high market concentration leads to decreased profit potential for all companies in the same industry.
    Examples: increased competition, industry growth, international or local threats, regional or national market concentration, diversity of competitors, product differentiation, switching costs, and brand identity.
  • Threat of New Entrants (aka ‘barriers to entry’): The degree to which new competitors/entrants act as a deterrent to existing companies in the industry.
    Examples: government policy/regulation, capital requirements, proprietary products, cost advantages, access to inputs and suppliers, and economies of scale.
  • Threat of Substitutes (products or services): The availability of substitute or alternative products will limit a company’s ability to raise prices and maintain customer base.
    Examples: switching costs, buyer’s inclination to substitute, price performance tradeoffs, and quality of alternatives.
  • Supplier Power: Powerful suppliers can demand premium prices and limit a company’s profit.
    Examples: differentiation of inputs, supplier concentration, importance of volume to supplier, threat of forward integration, cost relative to total purchases in industry, and switching costs.
  • Buyer Power: Powerful buyers (i.e. distributors or direct customers) have a significant impact on prices based on their buying behaviour.
    Examples: bargaining leverage, buyer volume, product differentiation, price sensitivity, substitutes available, buyer’s incentives, buyer concentration vs. industry.

PESTLE Analysis

PESTLE Analysis
What external factors affect your business?

Purpose: To identify all of the various external factors (i.e. political, economic, social, technological, legal, environmental) that might affect a business.

Political: to what degree the government intervenes in the industry.
Examples: tax policy, trade restrictions, tariffs, political stability.

Economic: factors that have major impacts on how businesses operate and make decisions.
Examples: interest rates, exchange rates, economic growth, inflation rates.

Social: trends that affect the demand for a company’s products/services and how that company operates. Examples: population growth, health consciousness, age/gender distribution, behavioural trends, career attitudes, habits.

Technological: trends that can determine barriers to entry, minimize production level and influence outsourcing decisions.
Examples: automation, technology incentives, research and development activities.

Legal: factors that can affect how a company operates, its costs, and the demand for its products.
Examples: consumer law, antitrust law, health and safety, discrimination, employment.

Environmental: factors that include ecological and environmental aspects that affect how companies operate and the products they offer.
Examples: climate change, weather, farming/agriculture conditions.


35 Digital Marketing Metrics

All great marketers know that great marketing is based on customer insights. It’s imperative that you know who your customers are, what drives their buying behaviour, and why they do the things they do. Besides the classical marketing metrics, which include brand awareness, customer satisfaction, profit, and customer value, it’s important to measure your customers’ behaviour on a daily or weekly basis to ensure you are not wasting your marketing dollars.

Marketing Metrics
Are you wasting your marketing dollars?

“What gets measured, gets managed.” – Peter Drucker

Therefore, I’ve provided a list of 35 digital marketing metrics (à la Website, SEO, Social, and Email) that will help you understand your customers’ habits and attitudes and better prepare you to improve your marketing initiatives to reflect these findings.

  1. Total Visits
    • Look at the ‘Big Picture’
    • How many people are visiting your website, micro-site, blog, etc.
  2. New Sessions
    • How many visitors are new and how many are recurring
    • The amount of New Sessions can give you an accurate idea of how many individuals are truly interacting with your website
  3. Unique Visits
    • Count of how many different people access your site in a given amount of time
    • Marketer’s goal should be to increase the number of unique visitors to the site to expand market reach
  4. Return Visits
    • How many unique visitors are returning more than once in a given period of time
    • Returning visitors are a great indicator of engagement and customer value
  5. Time on Site
    • How much time the average user spends on your site
    • An engaged viewer can turn into an engaged customer
  6. Page Views
    • Instance of a page being loaded by a browser.
    • Page Views metric = the total number of pages viewed (repeated views of a single page are also counted)
    • Shows that your site works well enough to allow the viewer to go from one page to the next. And you have content that keeps them engaged.
  7. Channel-specific traffic (direct/ referrals/ organic/ social)
    • Where your web traffic is coming from
    • Direct = directly to website / Referral = from another website/source / Organic = came up in search results / Social = directed from social media channel
  8. Bounce Rate
    • Percentage of visitors who leave a website after viewing only one web page
    • Measures the ineffectiveness of a page or site.
  9. Cost-per-Click (CPC)
    • Specific type of cost-per-action program where advertisers pay for each time a user clicks on an ad, link, or email/image.
  10. Inbound/Back Link
    • Back links are incoming links to a website or web page. Key component in improving one’s website ranking.
    • Focus on number of links coming to your site and from where. A link from high ranked site is worth more than low ranked site
  11. Traffic by Device
    • What devices (PC, Tablet, Mobile, etc.) were used to access a website the most
    • Make sure your content is formatted properly for all prospects
  12. Impressions
    • One view or display of an ad.
    • Impressions are a relative measure of ad effectiveness
  13. Page Rank
    • Google algorithm used by search engines to rank websites in their search engine results
    • Optimize your online presence for optimal ranking
  14. Organic Search
    • Results of viewers that visit your site due to non-paid search results
  15. Total Indexed Pages
    • How many pages on your site are indexed by search engines
    • Allows you to determine which landing pages receive the highest % of visits
  16. Total Conversions | Lead Volume
    • Amount of leads that you are receiving from campaigns
    • Know what programs are the most effective and conduct real-time measurements
  17. Lead to Close Ratio
    • Shows on average how many leads turn into paying customers
    • Know if your sales process works or not
  18. Conversion Rate
    • Percentage of time a website/store visitor turns into a lead or contact
  19. Website Conversions
    • Number of web visitors that took an action that resulted in the conversion you wanted
    • Getting visitors to convert is the true value of the site
  20. Customer Retention Rate
    • How good your customer service is and how quickly you can grow your business
    • ((CE – CN) / CS) x 100
    • CE = # of customers at end of period | CN = # of new customers acquired during period | CS = # of customers at start of period
  21. Customer Lifetime Value
    • Prediction of the net profit attributed to the entire future relationship with a customer
  22. Cost Per Lead
    • Total cost of generating one lead either in total or from a specific lead campaign
    • CPL = Total investment on marketing campaigns / Total Leads generated
  23. Marketing-Qualified Lead
    • A Lead that is more qualified to turn over for sales follow-up because of their activity
    • MQLs help sales prioritize lead follow-up driving more efficient pipeline creation
  24. Marketing-Influenced Sales Pipeline
    • Marketing-sourced measures % of leads in pipeline uniquely created by marketing. Marketing-Influenced is % of leads touched at least once by marketing during the sales process
  25. Acquisition Rate
    • Total participants who accepted an offer on a marketing campaign / the total audience
  26. Drop-Off Rate
    • Number of visitors who left the conversion process without completing it (i.e. abandoned shopping cart)
    • Shows where prospects stop the sales process, often pointing out a weakness in your strategy
  27. Project ROI | Return on Marketing Investment
    • Provides critical performance assessment of marketing campaigns relative to the marketing spend
    • Quick, meaningful measurement of campaign success
  28. Market Share
    • Company’s percentage of an industry or market’s total sales over a time period
    • Validates your position in the market and helps you fine-tune your overall marketing plan
  29. Social Interactions
    • Number of total interactions your social media account received over a specific time period
    • Focus on increasing your social interactions to build rapport with your network
  30. Follower Growth by Channel
    • Change in the number of followers for a given social media account
    • Different channels will grow at different rates – focus your efforts on what is working
  31. Social Reach
    • How far your message reaches across social media
  32. Click-Through-Rate (CTR)
    • Number of click-throughs per ad impression, expressed as percentage
    • Learn what is enticing people to click on your ads, and repeat this success
  33. Open Rate
    • Number of emails that were received and opened pertaining to your campaign
    • Open rate is a measure of relevance, and determines the effectiveness of subject lines
  34. Click-to-Open Rate (CTOR)
    • Number of emails that were clicked / Number of emails that were opened
    • AKA the ‘Effective Rate’
  35. Unsubscribe Rate
    • Number of people that chose not to receive any more updates or alerts from your website or email campaigns
    • It can be good to know what is driving someone away from your content

Influential & Innovative Team

One way that a company can become more innovative is to pay close attention to its talent management and to capitalize on its existing employees’ ability to innovate. Academics and experts alike endorse the view that individual innovation helps attain organizational success; and employees can help improve business performance through their ability to generate new ideas. However, in order for employees to focus on innovative behaviour, your company’s senior management team and/or role leaders will need to enable and enhance such behaviour – essentially, leaders in either a large organization or start-up have a powerful source of influence on their employees’ work behaviours.

An employees’ innovative behaviour is highly dependent on their interaction with other creative minds within the workplace.

Influential Team
Whose on your team?

Who are these innovative and influential leaders that empower their employees’ to innovate within the workplace? A real-life example would be Andy Wong, manager of the Optical Systems (OS) business unit for 3M Innovation during the 1990s. Faced with two previous market failures, Andy needed to figure out how he should proceed with the Authorization for Expenditure presented to him by his management team working on a new computer privacy screen. Andy’s characteristics were similar to that of an influential leader. In order to innovate, Andy recruited and retained the best possible candidates, he developed and motivated his team and helped build the OS unit’s functional capabilities and commitment to the project at hand. He also created and pursued internal growth opportunities; and finally, he was responsible for painting a clear picture as to what the OS unit was building.

Great workplaces provide more than 2x the return.

Middle managers tend to have their fingers on the pulse of a company’s operations – so they are able to conceive and propose new business ideas that senior management may not have originally thought of. Similar to Andy Wong, middle managers are not necessarily extraordinary employees; however, they do share numerous characteristics, which include: comfortable with change; clarity of direction; thoroughness; participative management style; persuasiveness and persistence.

When hiring middle management, your company should look for candidates that best match these characteristics and who are enterprising, innovative and entrepreneurial in spirit. However, managers with such skills need a work environment where the organizational culture fosters teamwork and collaboration, and encourages employees to do what needs to be done. In addition, it’s imperative that employees are able to generate new competencies to renew the company’s competitive advantages because no competitive advantage is likely to stay in place forever.

Companies tend to mismanage their innovation talent, and do not provide meaningful career growth opportunities for these professionals. Your company must initiate new executive responsibilities in the form of innovative managers. Innovative managers are responsible for converting the common research and development framework to one of business-building – a consistent and simple management process that captures the life cycle of new business ideas from concept to market entry to launch. These managers as well as senior executives need be on the same terms – while your company should be an ambidextrous organization. In order to prepare for innovative new products that will help define the future of your company, both levels of management need to constantly look backward and attend to the products/processes of the past, but also gaze forward. This may be a difficult challenge for most managers, as it requires a mental balancing act between exploring new business ideas, while continuing to produce and market existing products.

What type of employee do you want on your team?

Use the Right Social Media Platforms

Believe it or not – 72% of all internet users are active on social media. But with no strategy and understanding of the different channels, social media marketing can be used ineffectively – and choosing the wrong platforms for your business can be hurtful to your brand. With so much time put into sharing and posting content on social media, it’s crucial to know what audience you are targeting on each channel. Social media is no longer used by the young and restless – in fact, 60% of 50-60 year olds are now active on social media, and 43% of the 65+ age bracket.

Another increasing trend is mobile – 38% of internet users access social media via mobile device. Ensure your social media accounts and images (and of course your website!) are optimized for mobile. Best time to target customers on their mobile devices is around 8:30 am (morning commute) and 12:30 pm (lunch break).

Social Media Target Audiences
What platforms are you using?

It’s also important to realize that your company does not need to be on all social media platforms. For instance, a photographer is better off starting a Pinterest account, rather than Twitter. A bakery is better off posting blog content on Facebook or ‘how-to’ videos on YouTube, rather than making a company page on LinkedIn. By understanding what audience is on each channel and what each channel is used for, it will help you create a successful social media marketing strategy and target potential customers in a more efficient manner.

Here’s some statistics and pointers to help you target your audience and understand the most popular platforms:

Facebook like
•    Active users: 1.28 billion+
•    83% of 18-29 year olds who use the internet are on Facebook
•    Growth of users age 55+ is growing by 80% – younger audience declining.
•    75% of engagement on a Facebook post happens in the first 5 hours
•    Attractive platform for consumer packaged goods and product-based companies
•    Share valuable and relevant content with your followers – but don’t forget to interact!
•    Most common reason to unlike a Facebook page is uninteresting posts

•    Active users: 255 million+
•    23% of users make less than $30,000 per year
•    83% of users see news on Twitter – most people tend to use Twitter for news consumption
•    Most popular among adults age 18-29
•    Ages 55-64 has grown by 80% since 2012
•    Transform your lengthy blog posts into small snippets of useful information
•    Best time to Tweet: Monday-Thursday between 1:00-3:00 pm.

Google Plus – +1
•    Active users: 540 million+
•    67% of Google+ users are males
•    Average age is 28 years old
•    Next to Facebook, Google+ is second most active social network
•    Tends to be used by professionals and users interested in discussions and trends
•    Few companies have Google+ profiles – so your content will have less competition

•    Active users: 259 million+
•    ‘The Professional Facebook’ – network for white-collar professionals
•    High-income and highly educated user base
•    54% of Millennials use LinkedIn to read industry news and seek professional advice
•    80% of users are age 30+; gender is 50/50
•    Industry news is the top reason for users under 35 to check LinkedIn
•    Connect not only with customers and clients, but also with other businesses
•    Best time to Post: Tuesday-Thursday at the start or end of the workday

•    Active users: 70 million+
•    48% of all social sharing is on mobile devices
•    80% of Pinterest users are female
•    23% of internet users aged 50+ use Pinterest
•    High income earners – avg. $75k+ per year
•    Visual content from pictures to infographics

•    Active users: 150 million+
•    90% of users are age 18-34
•    74% of users are teenagers
•    Attractive platform for apparel, entertainment and media brands

•    Active users: 1 billion+
•    40% of YouTube traffic comes from mobile
•    78% of users are male
•    67% of users are age 18-34
•    Great opportunity to go viral
•    Utilize for presentations, webinars, testimonials, and company announcements

•    Number of blogs via blogging sites: 6.7 million+
•    77% of internet users read blogs
•    12 million+ people blog via social networks
•    23% of internet time is spent on blogs and social networks
•    Companies with a blog have 97% more inbound links than others
•    B2B marketers using blogs generate 67% more leads

Jay Cameron | @camconsultingco

Sources: Agile Impact; Business 2 Community; Business Insider; Impact BnD; Media Bistro; and Our Social Times.

Point of Distinction

Point of Distinction
How do you differentiate?

A successful marketing communications plan is highly dependent on a company’s point of distinction (a.k.a. point of differentiation) – a reason why one brand is superior to others. A point of distinction is what separates a company from its competition from the perspective of their customers/clients – and ultimately strengthens the brand. This type of differentiation includes both functional (what the brand does) and emotional benefits (what the brand makes the customer feel like). A marketing communications strategy must incorporate and promote why the company is offering something valuable, relevant and different than its competitors. This strategy should also change and evolve as the market matures and competition increases.

To figure out what your point of distinction is, you need to know how your product or service is different in various ways – both good and bad. Some factors to consider are: price, variety, convenience, features, benefits, experience, etc. Five types of market differentiation strategies include: price/quality, technology, product, customer service and user experience. Does your company compete based on price point or do you provide superior customer service? Do you offer an exceptional array of products and/or services or is your staff extremely well-trained and experienced? To find a point of distinction, ask yourselves and others (i.e. colleagues, clients, customers, etc.) these questions, and determine how your differentiation can be promoted to your target audience.

Focusing solely on what you can potentially do better than any other organization is the only path to greatness. –  Jim Collins

A great example of a brand that has a very strong point of distinction and continues to differentiate in its tough competitive market is Airbnb. Founded in 2008, Airbnb is a trusted community website for people to rent out their home, apartment, villa, etc.  Valued at $10 billion, Airbnb connects people from over 190 countries, provides world-class customer service and a growing community of users (800,000-plus), and allows the everyday property owner to monetize their extra space and showcase it to millions of tourists.

When choosing a point of distinction it is preferable to choose a benefit that reflects an existing consumer belief and/or market. For Airbnb, the market (i.e. to rent one’s lodging) already existed; however, it was unable to satisfy demand – and the supply might be local, but the demand is global. Every local venue (i.e. house or apartment) that is added to Airbnb adds value to the website, as more and more travelers/tourists are looking for cost-effective accommodations in a cultural-specific environment, as opposed to spending large amounts of money on big brand hotels.

Additionally, rather than provide permanent rentals, Airbnb’s business model of providing rooms or houses for short stays keeps the supply on hand and creates multiple transactions, thereby keeping a steady stream of revenue. Lastly, Airbnb attracts travelers of all types – from those who want to rent a spare bedroom to those professionals who want to rent an entire villa. This allows Airbnb to broaden its market reach while providing superior customer service and an additional revenue stream for many home owners.

Airbnb’s point of distinction and business model may be difficult to explain to new users; however, the company recently underwent a rebrand, which included a new logo, redesigned website and updated content that makes it easy for users to understand the company’s unique model. Initially, the rollout stirred controversy with the company’s new and awkward-looking logo; however, if Airbnb’s goal was to get people talking about the brand, then the redesign campaign was brilliant and can be considered a marketing communications success story.

Jay Cameron | @camconsultingco

Marketing Communications Strategy

Marketing Communications
What’s in your marketing framework?

Consumers receive hundreds, if not thousands, of marketing messages every single day, and with so many creative distractions, it’s very difficult for them to fully engage with all pieces of information. In order to support your strategic vision and increase sales, your business must set in place a marketing communications framework that will enable your employees to create unique and engaging marketing messages and use the right tools to effectively reach your target audience.

A marketing communications strategy helps develop brand awareness – in which consumers translate product or service information into perceptions about the company and its position in the marketplace. Marketing communications helps reinforce brand identity and persuades your target audience to take action – whether that is to purchase your products or services or provide feedback and engage with them on a social platform.

“Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time.” – Henry Ford

To compete in the marketplace and maintain consistent growth, organizations need to design an effective marketing communication strategy that utilizes several promotional vehicles/platforms, including: advertising (online and offline), social media, personal selling/presentations, direct marketing (i.e. email, mail, etc.), public relations (i.e. media releases), and content marketing (i.e. blogs). Using these vehicles is important; however, if not used correctly, they could by costly and ineffective.

Advertising allows a business to reach potential customers through either mass marketing efforts (i.e. billboards or television commercials) or target market appeals through web or social media advertisements.

Personal selling helps organizations communicate the benefits of their products/services directly to the customer in a retail or presentation setting.

Direct marketing helps reach customers in a specific geographic location or with certain demographic criteria through a third party medium, which includes email marketing and direct mail.

Content marketing engages consumers with valuable, relevant and free content that makes them want to continue following a brand.

Finally, public relations involves a company’s outflow of information to customers and suppliers (i.e. media releases and community outreach).

Essentially, an effective marketing communications strategy will help your company explain its purpose, mission, and values, as well as what your brand stands for to your customers, employees, suppliers and distributors. Promotional messages need to reach the right customer through the right medium at the right time; and customers need to be clear about what the company is offering and how they differentiate against competitors in the marketplace.

Jay Cameron | @camconsultingco

Google Optimization

By now every marketer should know that Search Engine Optimization – SEO – is the #1 way to drive traffic to your company’s website. However, it could very easily be called Google Optimization – with 68% of the search engine market share (Bing 18% and Yahoo 10%), Google provides the tools necessary to make any business a leader in search engine marketing.

1.17 billion monthly unique Google searchers – Search Engine Land

Small to midsize businesses may not have the budget to implement a robust Google AdWords campaign or dive into a website redesign; however, Google provides various tools (for FREE!) that can help optimize your company website.

Of course, before using these tools, it’s imperative that you fully understand your customers’ behaviours and decide how you want your brand to associate with them. This will help you determine the keywords you want to use and determine what their experience may be like getting to and exploring through your website.

Google Optimization
Enhance your search ranking!

Google AdWords Keyword Tool

If you’re a florist in Toronto, you may assume that your potential customers are searching for your services using “florist Toronto” – but did you ever think they could be using other keywords? For instance, during wedding season, it’s most likely “wedding flowers” or “wedding bouquets Toronto” could be searched more. This is why keyword research is so important.

The Google AdWords Keyword Tool allows you to do this research for free – meaning you don’t have to start an AdWords campaign. You can enter specific words and see how often people search for those words on Google or see how a list of keywords that relate to your business perform. You’d be surprised how different your idea of a searchable keyword is with ones that are used most often.

Google Webmasters Tools

Google Webmasters Tools will help you identify issues with your website; let you know if your site has been infected with malware; index your website and sitemap to allow for higher search results; optimize visibility of your website; provide a list of broken links on your site; identify top keyword searches for your website; and allow Google to easily communicate with your website.

Google Places

If you have a brick and mortar establishment, then one of your first to-do’s should be to create a Google Places account. Not only will this put your business on the (Google) map, but it will also enable you to manage your presence on Google. Millions of people use Google to find stores/places and to have your business on Google Maps, will enhance your search ranking and allow people to find your business with ease.


Google’s social networking and identity service is the second-largest social networking site in the world with over 540 million active users. Google plus is a social layer that enhances many of Google’s online properties, and allows companies to increase their search ranking. Google plus not only acts as a social network, but also as an authorship tool that associates users/businesses directly with their web content.

Jay Cameron

The Power of Social Influence

For a small business to overcome its arch rival and/or be successful in the competitive market, it is crucial to understand that the performance of its products is not solely driven by intrinsic attributes, such as employee expertise, product innovation, and low price; rather, as research has proven time and time again, the success of many products stems from social influence, which is the effect that customers have on each other’s decisions.

Many times I find myself purchasing something simply because I read a good review or had a friend tell me about it. Additionally, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read reviews on TripAdvisor before purchasing a hotel room – evidently, social influence matters.

72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations – Search Engine Journal

Social Influence
Who influences your brand?

You should not only understand what products your customers might enjoy, but also implement strategies that focus around social influence – with social media being the largest platform. Receiving feedback via social media, blogs, discussion forums, online commenting, etc. can help you measure both individual and group reactions to new products in real time.

It’s been 20 years since Tim Berners-Lee invented what we all know as the World Wide Web, which has dramatically enhanced the amount of social influence prevalent in our society. In order to remain relevant in your industry, you need to listen to the conversations online, listen to what people are saying about your products or services and tweak your offerings accordingly.

However, consumers are not always the best at articulating their needs and companies tend to get mixed results. For instance, the iPod was first ridiculed when it hit the market in 2001, but Steve Jobs stood by his product and the rest is history. Therefore, it’s important that companies break this orthodoxy and diversify its techniques for obtaining consumer insights. For example, many consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies succeed with anthropological research methods, such as “living with consumers” and observing their buying behaviours firsthand.

Existing customers and influencers can certainly tell if your products are inferior to your competitor’s offerings; however, they cannot necessarily tell you if they need or want a product that they have never heard of or seen before. Think outside the box; be innovative; and become the social influencer by providing your customers/clients with the products/services they will desire, not those they already do!

Jay Cameron

Consumer Surveys Impact on Brand Perception

In today’s Big Data era, marketing teams are constantly under pressure to gather customer-centric data in order to better their promotional efforts and strengthen the brand image. Traditionally, consumer-focused surveys have been a primary tool for companies to gather customer insights and learn more about its customer’s buying behaviour. Despite the ease of fielding and distributing surveys in the digital age (i.e. free online software, such as Survey Monkey and easy-to-use website feedback forms), they may not be the right tool in today’s fast-paced and easily annoyed society.

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Jonathan Levitt, CMO of Opinion Lab, a global leader in feedback innovation, says that “surveys interrupt customers by asking them a long list of questions that the brand would like to have answered… a way to interrogate customers about every possible brand nuance, but you’re not illuminating the hearts and minds of respondents.” The result is a really long survey and no action plan. This leads to survey fatigue – in other words, survey avoidance. Survey response rates have dropped from 20% to 2%, which negatively impacts the data sets available to brands.

I’ve conducted numerous surveys for my previous employers, and what I found is that sending surveys to a smaller more niche market and letting them know it will only take 3 minutes is much more effective than sending it to thousands of people with a long list of questions that don’t necessarily relate to their buying habits. I strongly agree that if brands explain how the survey feedback will be used to improve customer service, it will not only gain the attention of its followers, but also produce higher survey response rates in the future.

Even though Levitt says that brands shouldn’t solicit feedback by offering some kind of sweepstakes, I believe that offering a prize will not only garner more feedback, but will also show customers that you truly care about what they have to say. Plus, who really wants to fill out a survey just to help a brand? Yes, maybe a few die hard followers, but the majority of people want something in return, and you can’t blame them. For instance, I once sent a survey to a small business database of about 2,000 people, offering them a chance to win a small prize, and we received a 30% response rate – the feedback wasn’t all positive either, which is sometimes even better.

Do you think surveys can damage a brand?

Jay Cameron